Steinberg, a name known for innovation and user-friendliness in both MIDI and audio-production software, has come through once again with its ultimate flagship application, Nuendo 2.0. The company has always sought to engineer products that cater to the creative process while providing the type of flexibility that the high-end recording industry requires. Nuendo 2.0 is a continuation of that tradition: Version 2.0 is designed to meet the needs of audio professionals in music, postproduction, film, broadcasting, game sound and multimedia production. The program is intended to be a truly user-configurable media-production system.
As a Nuendo user since the advent of 1.0, an SX user since 1.0 and a Cubase user since (I'll not go there), I had the privilege of receiving Nuendo 2.0 during the final production and recording of a project at the Hit Factory in New York City. So rather than give you a list of all the program's wonderful new features, which I'll fill in along the way, I'll just get right to it. And let me say this: For those of you who have heard strange rumors that Nuendo 2.0 is simply an update that contains a collection of Cubase SX features, you can rest assured that Nuendo 2.0 is an extensive revision that includes a number of new high-end features that are in a class of their own.
The first day at the Hit Factory, I installed Nuendo 2.0 on my Dell Inspiron 2.6 GHz (with 1 GB of RAM) machine. For audio I/O, I ran a MOTU 828 and Nuendo 8-I/O converters patched in and out of the studio's SSL 9000 console and through a collection of Neve preamps and various outboard gear. The install was painless and simple. The packaging comes with two real manuals, a quick start and a user's manual (both are well-written and organized); installation CDs for both PC and Mac; a demo of 5.1 Urban Soundscapes; and a small device for copyright protection that must be plugged into a USB port.
I always check regularly for application updates, especially with all of the plug-ins that I use. Because I have nearly every plug-in available, problems do arise frequently, and about 90 percent of the time, most problems are due to plug-in conflicts. Because Nuendo 2.0 is a new release, I expected a number of bugs. To Steinberg's credit, however, at the time of this writing, I was able to download version 2.01, which fixed most of the issues that I encountered. Steinberg supplies an online PDF file that details known bugs, states whether they are third-party problems and estimates when in-house issues will be fixed. On the Steinberg Website is a Nuendo users group that I highly recommend joining; there, you'll get answers to your questions and be able to express your thoughts.
After installing and loading the program, the first thing that users may notice is that 2.0 loads slower than version 1.6. The program needs to first analyze all of the installed plug-ins and instruments, as well as configure the new and more-complex busing system. Once 2.0 is up, however, users are greeted with a new design motif, which borrows from SX, and a cool new transport bar. Personally, I had grown to love the simple, smooth look and feel of Nuendo 1.6, and those who have done the same will have to get used to the new look. I was fortunate to be able to ease into this change because I've used SX, which has similar interfacing, since its release.
COMPATIBILITY, FILES AND FORMATS
Nuendo 2.0 is capable of loading projects saved in Cubase SX/VST and older versions of Nuendo, as well as importing standard format files. The program loaded Cubase SX and Nuendo 1.6 files flawlessly, and 2.0 will give you an option upon saving to overwrite or create a 2.0 version. Even though 2.0 uses a smarter busing system than 1.6, it cleverly lays the older file in its new system. I didn't lose a thing — even the dynamics and EQ settings were preserved, which is something you can't do between Nuendo 1.x and Cubase SX. If you are a Nuendo user thinking about SX, definitely go with Nuendo 2.0: The transition and importing of older files are flawless.
The file types and formats supported in 2.0 include the following: Wave64; MP3 Pro; OGG Vorbis; REX2; WMA/V and WMA/V Pro (video and audio); OpenTL 3.0; Enhanced OMF “dialect” support; OMF Event Gain; OMF real-time fade support; Cubase SX project import; and BWAV (with optional inclusion of broadcast headers), WAV and AIFF files with sample rates as high as 384 kHz. The program also has the ability to convert multichannel interleaved files into mono files when importing.
JUMP ON THE BUS
The first thing that anyone must learn before going any further into the program is the new system of input and output bus routing. Before even beginning to think about working with Nuendo 2.0, sit down with the manual and let this chapter sink in. The new system is truly amazing. It's flexible, logical and gives you incredible control of your audio routing, but it is very different from previous Nuendo versions and SX. You will easily be thrown off by the missing master-fader and send-effects windows, and the key commands that you've grown accustomed to have also changed. However, after the short-lived frustration of change is replaced with the overwhelming joy of new possibilities, you'll be on the road to more music and the next chapter.
So what's the big deal? Basically, you are now able to record on multiple tracks from one input bus at any given time. For instance, you can add insert effects to an input and record both a dry and effected track from the same input, as well as route the dry signal to an external processor and derive a mono or stereo recording from that, too, and all in real time. Before 2.0, you could only record on one track per bus in mono or stereo. The routing in 2.0 has almost no limitations. The program also has total delay compensation on every bus, including the signals being processed externally, system-linked or networked. This makes Nuendo 2.0 the perfect core system for any professional or semiprofessional studio by allowing you to control the entire audio chain from 2.0.
In the studio, the first thing I did was make a custom busing setup, rename all of the buses' ins and outs (with titles that I and someone else could understand) and save the busing structure as a preset. Yes, you can make presets! I also created different buses for monitoring on different speakers, headphones and so forth, and I was able to turn them on and off with the click of a mouse. It became really nice working with this in my surround studio. I was able to quickly change my monitor setup from stereo to 5.1 without touching a cable or a switch. And I could change monitoring speakers back and forth without using a switch box or a knob on a board.
THE ULTIMATE TRANSPORT BAR
I must admit, I got used to not using a transport bar. That was mainly due to monitor space and because there was little that you couldn't access with a key command. However, the new transport bar in Nuendo is a thing of beauty, and I keep it on my second monitor at all times. With this little baby, you can customize the look of the panel, hiding or moving controls by simply right-clicking on the transport bar and making selections from the pop-up menu that appears. For me, the Level control, jog/shuttle wheel, metering and CPU/disk cache take the cake. Everything is accounted for, and the transport bar even frees up some keys for new key commands. The jog/shuttle wheel worked flawlessly with neither a glitch nor a hiccup.
You just can't get any better than what I call Nuendo's “dream mixer.” The new mixer is user-configurable, allowing you to choose between narrow, wide and extended mixer views and showing selected channels and channel-strip sections. Above the normal fader mixer is another mixer display that enables you to display either insert effects; effect sends; EQs; or an additional view with input and output settings, including gain change and phase shift per channel. Each mixer strip can be hidden or narrowed to display more channels. To make things even easier, you can have several custom mixers available at one time for easy access at any time. For example, you could have one configured for MIDI, one for audio, one for subgroups, one for ReWire channels and so on.
I jumped for joy when I saw the mixer's Phase Shift button. I was able to instantly fix phase problems without having to print the track first. This had to be one of my favorite additions and a necessity for most professional recording and mixing situations. What took so long?
Another notable feature is the automatic plug-in delay compensation found in the entire signal path. Throughout the years, I have become an increasingly virtual producer and user, trying to keep it all in the machine and the digital world, and now Steinberg comes along and makes it really easy to access the analog world. Version 2.0 compensates for signals not only in its digital routing but also in its analog routing. I now have all of my external effects processors back into my audio chain, taking a big burden off of my processor, with no latency. For example, I hooked in two Lexicon PCM 81s, a TC M3000, a TC Gold Channel, an old DigiTech 256, a TC M-One and D-Two, a Korg Triton Le and a Neve preamp rack using ins and outs from two Nuendo 8-I/O converters, with no glitches, hiccups or latency, and the sound quality was incredible. To top it off, all mixer audio channels can be routed from and to any input and output bus — Nuendo might help bring back the good old effects processor. If your routing includes analog processing, version 2.0 also gives you the option, which it automatically detects on mixdown, to export your mix in real time, and the sound quality has never been better.
Some of Nuendo's other valuable mixing features include effects-return channels with separate effects-return mixdown; a multichannel architecture throughout the entire signal path; as many as 12 channels offered on every input, audio track, effects return, group and output; a patch editor for routing plug-in channels in surround channels; a surround panner that can be used in channel sends; an unlimited amount of VSTi, group channels and ReWire 2 channels; three stereo panning modes (balance, dual pan and combined pan); eight insert slots per channel (two post-fader); and MIDI channels available in the mixer.
RECORDING AND EDITING
After understanding 2.0's busing structure, recording is a piece of cake. The beauty of this new system is the ability to record the same source to multiple tracks. There are also separate pre- and post-roll settings and new record modes to make multiple tracking and takes easier to record and manage. Also, seeing and managing tracks and their automation is much simpler than in previous versions. A shaded version of your audio wave appears on your automation track, making placement or drawing of automation so much easier.
Nuendo 2.0 still has the same powerful editing engine with the unlimited undo and redo found in version 1.6. but with some nice new additions. Version 2.0 allows scrubbing of all audio at the same time, as well as scrubbing the video track. Nuendo has hit-point detection for locating audio peaks, adapting grooves and creating groove templates in the sample editor. This is a dream come true for fixing drum tracks and other audio tracks. It can work something like Propellerhead ReCycle does, even allowing you to quantize audio parts. Also, for loop-based recording or looping audio tracks, there is a terrific feature to slice and stretch audio loops, with automatic tempo matching.
A few more of the new editing features include unlimited view, zoom, undo and redo; folder tracks with group-based overview; preset curve tools for automation editing; auto-fade and auto-crossfades with user-definable fade times; option to link left and right locators to the Range tool (cycle follows selection); fade from cursor to event end and fade from event begin to cursor; audio/tempo analysis and audio/groove analysis; and automation data moves with the audio events.
THE BIG PICTURE
What really helps put 2.0 over the top is its flexibility. All program menus are user-configurable, enabling you to hide all features that you usually do not use or currently do not need for a specific kind of production. For example, if you don't need MIDI functions, you can hide all MIDI menu entries, disable the corresponding key commands and assign those preferences to a template. The same holds true for video and audio settings: Simply hide them and design the interface that you need yourself. All hidden features are still in the background in case you need them in the future. You can also configure the controls for each track to suit your personal way of working. If, for example, you are engaged in audio recordings, Nuendo can instantly be changed to record only audio with only a record and a monitoring button on each track. After finishing your recordings, you can “unhide” features as needed or switch to a template that immediately gives you access to all track controls again.
Macros are possible in Nuendo 2.0 and can be some of the biggest time-savers of all — especially if you do a lot of tedious editing work. I received a macro, which Greg Ondo from Steinberg created, that allowed me to mixdown my song into complete stems for use in another program. With a simple command, the program laid out the channels, set up the buses and exported each track on its own stem.
Space doesn't allow me to detail all of the new editing features in Nuendo 2.0, but here is another quick glimpse: user-definable frame-rate option for multimedia applications; double display counters in transport and tool bars; option to set timecode at cursor position; key commands can be disabled; key-command sets can be stored and recalled selectively; users can toggle between alternate key-command sets; preferences can be stored and recalled selectively, and single preference entries can be toggled by key commands; enhanced marker management; advanced search field with preview option; and offline resampling.
Approximately 200 new features are incorporated in Nuendo 2.0. There is so much more to this program than I could possibly explain in this amount of space, so I tried to focus on some of the main changes and new features.
I have been working with this program for a few months now, and the worst crashes that I have experienced involved hardware failure, some issues with a FireWire drive and problems with some virtual instruments causing memory crashes. Nuendo 2.0 is heavier on the CPU than 1.6, but that's to be expected. You should do your best to get a good, fast, clean audio machine with plenty of memory. Most issues that I ran into were quickly fixed in 2.01 — before I even had a chance to finish writing about the problem. Come on, that's truly incredible!
If you are upgrading from 1.6 to 2.0, you'll need some time to adjust, but once you are off and running, don't plan on getting any sleep. If you are upgrading from Cubase SX, the transition will be painless and worth it. Nuendo 2.0 is like running a superstudio on your computer. With enough converters and soundcards, you can make Nuendo 2.0 the core of your studio, busing in and out of all the outboard gear you want, with total delay compensation on every bus.
When Nuendo 1.0 was introduced, it gave the industry quite a stir. Now with Nuendo 2.0, whether or not it was the intended goal, Steinberg may have given the industry a reason to use nothing else. If you work in a demanding and professional environment, certain requirements must be met, and 2.0 addresses all of them. From pre- to postproduction work in both audio and video, it has all of the necessary tools and format support that you require. If you need to turn your project into Sony next week, need to send files to a mixer that uses another program, need to send stems to the film studio, need to record in New York and then in L.A. the next day, need to produce with another producer at the same time on the same file but in different places (and the list goes on), then you need Nuendo 2.0. The interfacing puts everything at your fingertips and allows you to set up a project the way you want it. It can become a part of you and work with you the way you work best. I guess the next step for Steinberg is Nuendo AI.
NUENDO 2.0 > $1,499
Pros: Significant revision. New routing system. Totally configurable to individual needs.
Cons: Pricey. Heavier CPU load.
MAC: G4/867 (G4/dual 1.25 GHz or faster recommended); 384 MB RAM (512 MB recommended); OS 10.2.5 or higher; OS X — compatible soundcard (ASIO-compatible soundcard recommended); USB port
PC: Pentium or Athlon/800 (Pentium or Athlon/1.4 GHz or faster recommended); 384 MB RAM (512 MB recommended); Windows 2000/XP, Windows MME- or DirectSound-compatible soundcard (ASIO-compatible soundcard recommended); USB port
Nuendo 2.0 supplies you with an impressive and ample collection of virtual effect processors, ranging from standard dynamic processing and filtering to modulation effects or tools for restoration. All of these plug-ins can be used online or offline, and you can load as many instances as your computer can handle. Also, when using MIDI, Nuendo includes arpeggiators, chord processors and other plug-ins to manipulate MIDI events, as well as three virtual instruments.
AUDIO PLUG-INS (STEREO)
Flanger, Phaser, Overdrive, Chorus, Symphonic, Reverb A, Reverb B, QuadraFuzz, SPL DeEsser, Double Delay, ModDelay, Dynamics, Datube, Chopper, Transformer, Metalizer, Rotary, Vocoder, StepFilter, Bitcrusher, Ringmodulator, Grungalizer, MIDI Gate, UV22 HR (Apogee), Multiband Compressor, Scope, Q, Magneto, DeNoiser, DeClicker
AUDIO PLUG-INS (SURROUND)
MatrixDecoder, MatrixEncoder, Mix8to2, Mix6to2, SurroundPan, MultiDither
Arpache5, Autopan, Chorder, Compress, Control, Density, MicroTuner, MIDIEcho, Note2CC, Quantizer, StepDesigner, TrackControl, TrackFX, Transformer
A1, LM-7, VB-1
Nuendo now has extensive MIDI capabilities with a new MIDI device manager, which makes it easier to set up and configure MIDI devices. There are also more MIDI editors and new MIDI plug-ins. The updated automation system also extends to all of the MIDI parameters, allowing you to draw MIDI automation data with multiple shape tools. Even multiple controller “lanes” can be used within the editors, and all data can now be displayed on the same page. Is that cool or what?